National Physical Laboratory

Biotechnology Season's Greetings

Each year NPL likes to celebrate Christmas with something different. This page brings together some of our festive highlights from over the years, including the latest NPL makeover of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'.

Xmas Tree 2011
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
  NPL gave to me ...

12 colour standards12 colour standards

The ceramic colour standards were first produced in 1969 in collaboration with industry, trade associations and academics to check instruments that measure colour. In 1983 they won the Queen's Award for Enterprise. More about NPL's History.

11 decades of science11 decades of science

NPL was founded in 1900 but our formal opening ceremony was held on 19th March 1902 by the Prince of Wales - marking 2012 as the end of our 11th decade.

10 science modules10 science modules

NPL's building is one of the most sophisticated measurement facilities in the world. Its design is based upon 10 interlinked scientific modules that enable us to manage different environmental controls such as noise, temperature, vibration and magnetic fields.

9 waveforms waving9 waveforms waving

The term 'waveform' often refers to the shape of a graph of varying quantity against time or distance, as measured and represented on an oscilloscope. NPL is developing a Quantum Voltage Synthesiser for generation of waveforms directly in terms of the Josephson effect.

8 metre photometry bench8 metre photometry bench

Photometry is the measurement of visible light in terms of its perceived brightness to human vision. The 8 metre bench is critical to our calibration services for industry. 

7 SI units7 SI units

The SI (Système International d'Unités) is a globally agreed system of units, with seven base units : ampere (A) - electric current; kilogram (kg) - mass (pictured); metre (m) - length; second (s) - time; kelvin (K) - thermodynamic temperature; mole (mol) - amount of substance; and candela (cd) - luminous intensity. More about the SI units.

6 frequencies of ultrasound6 frequencies of ultrasound

NPL has developed a unique reference vessel for cavitation which covers six key frequencies for ultrasound. We use this to investigate how the formation and implosion of tiny cavities, or bubbles, in liquid can be used to sterilise surgical tools, clean technological parts (including engines and glasses for sight correction) and develop new chemicals. 

5 hundred scientists5 hundred scientists

NPL's reputation relies on great people and exceptional scientists. NPL currently employs around 500 scientists from a wide range of backgrounds including physics, maths, engineering, chemistry, biology and environmental sciences. Our People.

4 air quality networks4 air quality networks

Networks of ambient measurement sites exist to provide public health information, monitor compliance with UK and EU regulation, and further air quality modelling and research. NPL currently manages four networks on behalf of Defra: Heavy Metals, Black Carbon, Particle Counting & Speciation, and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

3 phases of water3 phases of water

The triple-point temperature of a pure substance is a unique temperature at which the solid, liquid and vapour phases coexist in thermal equilibrium. Such points make ideal fixed points for the calibration of thermometers. The triple point of water has a special place in metrology as it is the basis for the definition of the units of temperature, the kelvin and the degree Celsius. Thus the temperature of the triple point of water is 273.16 K and 0.01 °C by definition.

2 trapped ions2 trapped ions

An ion trap confines two ions to a localised volume of space in a vacuum. An oscillating voltage is applied to the electrode structure yielding a dynamic electric field, which creates a potential that confines the charged particles. An individual trapped ion, cooled to within a fraction of a degree of absolute zero, can be used to make the world's most accurate atomic clock. An array of trapped ions may one day form the basis of a quantum computer.

and the world's most accurate clock... and the world's most accurate clock

NPL's caesium fountain atomic clock has been revealed to be the most accurate long-term timekeeper in the world. The clock, known as 'NPL-CsF2', is used as the primary frequency standard for the measurement of time in the UK and contributes to International Atomic Time and Universal Coordinated Time – the worldwide timescales used for global communications, satellite navigation and time stamping of financial transactions.

Watch some of our Christmas videos


Micro Video Thumb  Time Video Thumb

SI Xmas 2010

In 2010 NPL celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the SI units on its card. Find out more.

Christmas 1928

  • Christmas card from Sir Joseph Petavel, Director of NPL 1919 - 1936
  • Xmas 1928
  • Xmas 1928 2